The Red Tree By Shaun Tan Essay

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I thought it would therefore be interesting to produce an illustrated book that is all about feelings, unframed any storyline context, in some sense going ‘directly to the source’.

What resulted after many scribbles was a series of imaginary landscapes connected only by a minimal thread of text and the silent figure of a young girl at the center of each one, with whom the reader is invited to identify.

This was a fascinating project, and a welcome opportunity to work in collaboration with artists from very different disciplines, and see how they went about interpreting the book, and in turn how audiences responded to this.

The ideas of the original book are very broad and I think point more to a method of expression – of ‘emotional worlds’ - rather than any very specific content, so it not only endures variable interpretations, it almost demands them.

At the beginning she awakes to find blackened leaves falling from her bedroom ceiling, threatening to quietly overwhelm her.

She wanders down a street, overshadowed by a huge fish that floats above her.

She imagines herself trapped in a bottle washed up on a forgotten shore, or lost in a strange landscape.

She's caught in a tiny boat between towering ships about to collide, then suddenly she's on stage before a mysterious audience, not knowing what to do.

is a story without any particular narrative; a series of distinct imaginary worlds as self-contained images which invite readers to draw their own meaning in the absence of any written explanation.

As a concept, the book is inspired by the impulse of children and adults alike to describe feelings using metaphor - monsters, storms, sunshine, rainbows and so on.


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